Culture

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The Death of Cinema

There was a day, within the lifetimes of those among us, when there were no video games, no Internets, no Blue Ray, no DVRs, no FIOS, no Satellite TV, no DVD's, no VCR's, no cable, no broadcast TV, no Cd's, no MTV, no cassette tapes, no 8-tracks, no LP's no 45's, no 78's, no XM radio, no FM radio, no radio, period. 

In that day, the upright piano was the state-of-the-art in home entertainment technology.  In 1909, over 350,000 pianos were manufactured in the United States.  That's almost six times as many as in 2007, in a country with one-third the population.  The age of the piano came and went.  It, along with its partners the sheet music industry and the professional piano tuner, succumbed to the radio the gramophone, television, etc. 

The End of the Aughts: Good Riddance!

The highlights of this decade have been too few and too far between. The lowlights, on the other hand...

9/11

The singular, headline event of the decade can be traced back to the fabulous fifties and our cold-war efforts to keep the Commies away from the Persian gulf.  Overthrowing the first democratic government in the Muslim world seemed so easy (and more importantly, so cheap) that the temptation to do it again would be too great.  There followed a pattern of supporting short term economic and global political goals at the expense of the human and civil rights of Muslims.  Sadly, America became a force for evil in that part of the world.  Even after the Soviet threat to the region was on the wane and then gone, we continued to support the most repressive governments in the world in a short-sighted effort to keep the magic stuff flowing. 

The Show

This World Series promises to be epic.  The best two teams in the league face off and there are almost too many back stories to list.

There are the cities.  One is the faded former center of American political and economic life.  One is the megalopolis capitol of the world.  One feels the shadow of the other.  One has too many threads flowing to pay more than a passing glance to the other.

There are the teams.  One is the most successful sports franchise in history, with 40 pennants and the beneficiary of the most famous curse in baseball.  The other has a history of winning that has been over-shadowed by another curse and the all-time record for losses.

Woe Raider Nation

2002 was the year the Raiders returned to the Superbowl.  It was bad luck and perhaps a sign of things to come that the coach on the other side of the field was the man who had put together the team.  Jon Gruden brought Tampa Bay its only Superbowl title after bolting the Raiders the previous year.  Even without Gruden, the team had been good enough to get that far.  Since then, not so much.

The Degeneration of American Conservatism

30 years ago, American conservatives were in the ascendancy.  The devil-worshipping hippies were banished to the fringes of American culture, selling organic food and practicing yoga.  The former liberal mainstream of the Democratic party had suffered the body blow of the Kennedy assassination and had seen their great society eaten alive by the war in Vietnam.  Incredibly, they had escaped the shadow of Watergate and elected their most promising president in decades.

One Day Only: Kari Ferrell's Hipster Grifter Tour at Room 504, Criminal Justice Center

Since YouTube was her downfall, it was only appropriate that Kari Ferrell, the "Hipster Grifter" appeared at her extradition hearing via closed-circuit TV.  It's standard procedure for the waiver hearings to be conducted without bringing the prisoner all the way to the CJC from State road.  Ferrell has taken grifting far.  She started out in her hometown of Salt Lake and managed to become one of their "most wanted."  She then managed to turn herself into a quasi-celebrity while stealing cellphones and duping hiptards from Prospect Heights to Park Slope.  And she was snared as only a hipster grifter could be.  A local musician who had been in contact with her lured her onto a Chinatown bus with a promise of a free ride to Portland.  When she arrived, officers from the 6th District were waiting.  She has since been held at the House of Detention here in Phi

The 2008-2009 Portland Trailblazers: A Review

Pro basketball fans from Astoria to Zigzag can take heart: the Blazers are back.  For those unfamiliar, here is a brief history of the team.  Born of fire and steel in 1970, the Portland Trailblazers have seen their share of ups and downs over the years.  The original team of Geoff Petrie, Rick Adelman and Sidney Wicks gave way to the Walton/Lucas Championship year.  Then came the Billy Ray Bates years, then the Sam Bowie draft. 

Mexico Burns

Having destroyed the Andean region of South America and the inner cities of North America, US drug policy is now marching like a wildfire through Central America and is now raging through the border regions of Mexico.  There is a shooting war going on south of the border.  A civil war is being fought between various poly-drug trafficking organizations and between them and the government.  The situation there is looking more and more like the situation in Colombia.  American drug policy has allowed organized criminals to amass huge coffers with which they can engage in even more nefarious activities.
 

The Watchmen: A Review

It was 1987.  Ronald Reagan ruled the land with a palsy-ed, yet iron fist.  his domestic team had taken Thatcherism, given it an SUV, cut its income tax, raised its payroll tax, given it private healthcare, deregulated its savings and loan industry and unleashed it on the Ranch of the American homeland.  Abroad, the party that had given us the Shah of Iran and the Contras, brought us the Iran-Contra Affair.  Into those heady times, Alan Moore injected The Watchmen.  It was nothing less than the greatest comic/graphic novel of all time, imho (in my hubristic opinion). 
 

Greatest Post Apocalypse Cinema Nominee No. 3

The Mad Max Trilogy (1979-1985; Director: George Miller; Starring: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner and Bruce Spence)

Darwin's 200th Birthday--Updated

UPDATE October 14, 2009: In honor of his 200th birthday, a "missing link" of flying dinosaurs, which filled in a gap, millions of years long, between the earliest, primitive pterosaurs and those that followed has been named after him.  The gap was known in Darwin's time and the features of Darwinopterus reveal much about how these creatures evolved.

Michael Phelps: The Gold and the Green... and the Green

Ah to be 23, the most accomplished athlete in the world and a multimillionaire.  God forbid, you go out and have a good time.  Michael Wilbon leads the chorus of boos and criticism of Michael Phelps' party night at USC.  He wants his feet "held to the fire."  He fairly cites Phelps' 2004 DUI.  That is worthy of opprobrium.  What makes something morally wrong is the harm (or risk of harm) to others.  Smoking weed doesn't make the cut.  Even if you do think that breaking the marijuana laws of South Carolina rises to the level of drinking and driving, One misdemeanor every four years does not a bad citizen--nor bad corporate spokes/role model--make. 

Wall-E: Greatest Post Apocalypse Cinema Nominee No. 2

The second nominee is: WALL-E (2008, director: Andrew Stanton, starring Kathy Najimy, Fred Willard, and Jeff Garlin)
In what is unquestionably their best work to date, the CGI team at Disney/Pixar lands a well-deserved place on this list.  One does not normally think of the post-apocalypse when one thinks of Disney--Way to break the mold!  The story of the lonely little robot with his cockroach little buddy, left behind on an Earth devastated by consumerism and waste is remarkable--made even more so by the fact that the film is still essentially a children's movie.
You cannot help but feel the authentic sense of loss that Wall-E feels as he rolls across the devastated landscape.  The visuals are outstanding.  The picture painted of a future humanity, where Walmart is the government, no one gets out of their power chairs and every meal comes out of a cinema big gulp cup is both comic and tragic.

NPR's Fresh Air Picks its Word of the Year and it's JOE!

Resident linguist, Geoff Nunburg, selected his 2008 Word of the Year and it's all coming up Joe!

UPDATE: Sadly, Miriam Webster selected "Bailout" as their Word of the Year.  Bailout?  Really?  I'm sure Geoff would agree that it lacks a certain flair.  bailout...

Comments to Joe Hubris.

Greatest Post Apocalypse Cinema

With the new year's release of The Road and the latest installment of The Terminator Saga (Terminator Salvation--finally we get to the good stuff), the all-seeing eye of Joe Hubris has been drawn to this topic.  The former is an adaptation of Cormack McCarthy's devastating novel.  The later, starring Christian Bale, carries the promise of the original Terminator's Man vs. Machine war of the future.  It all raises the question: what is the greatest post-apocalypse film ever made?

The first nomination: On the Beach (1959, director/producer: Stanley Kramer; starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins)

The David Report

October 2008:

1. Croatia continues to hold its 6th place despite a loss to England and a two draws.

2. Lithuania (with under 4 million people) defeated Austria and Romania by a combined 6 to 0 to move up 17 spots in the standings to 37th overall.

August 2008:

1. Croatia.  Croatia, with their population of 4 million, is currently ranked 6th in the world by FIFA.  They are coming off a quarterfinal loss to Turkey, after posting wins against Germany, Poland and Austria, three counties with a combined population of almost 130,000--almost 33 times as large as the land of the Vatreni (the Firey).  They are by far, the greatest David in the August rankings.

2. Scotland.  Currently ranked 16th in the world, Scotland has one-seventh the poplation of England, currently ranked 14th.

Commercials I Hate!

Bayer Asparin for Coronary Health

The ad promotes taking Bayer Asparin to prevent heart attacks. There is an older middle-aged woman who says what is surely one of the most inane things ever: "I never thought I'd have a heart attack, but I did!" Really? You never thought you'd suffer from the most common form of death in America: heart disease? I could buy: "I didn't think I'd have a heart attack" or "I thought I had avoided the scourge or heart disease." But "I never thought" I'd have one? That's simple stupidity.

Liberty Mutual's Responsibility

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